This article comes at an apt time, for me that is, as I've been watching the PBS 1996 mini-series, The West, and they've just aired the episode about the founding of the Mormon church and 'plural wives.' All interesting stuff, to be sure.
You may be scratching your head, wondering how polygamy fits into a romance. I can assure you the main story is strictly between Whip and Rosalyn. As a historical, Charlene takes us back in time to when the Mormon church was founded. This was a tumultuous and, dare I say opportunistic, time in American history and the founding of the American West. This topic may seem unusual to include into a romance story, but I can assure you, as with all other sensitive topics Charlene has written about in her romances, The Scent of Roses deals with the subject of polygamy in thoughtful and factual manner. The back story in this book takes the reader into the mid 19th century, to a time when the American west was reaching a pinnacle, when religious freedoms were being expanded, and setting a tone for future generations.
Of course, at it's heart, The Scent of Roses is a rich and lively romance that many twists and turns, including a haunted house with a charming ghost. Dastardly villains add their evil into the mix. And a n unforgettable romance between two people that will leave you sighing by the end. Hey, no spoilers here, but this IS romance so we know the hero and heroine get together. It's this colorful tapestry of the American West which Charlene weaves for us, each page a thread in what will eventually become a stunning piece of art.
Before we get to the excerpt for The Scent of Roses, grab yourself a cookie and settle back for an interesting period of American history which continues to this day.
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POLIGAMY AND THE SCENT OF ROSES
Some of the questions I am most often asked about my book, The Scent of Roses, concern polygamy.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, claimed to have received many revelations from God telling him how to set up the church, and how the Saints should live their lives. Smith may have received the infamous revelation about plural marriage in the 1830s, shortly before he married his first plural wife, Fanny Alger. But polygamy at this time was reserved for church leaders and not openly practiced until 1852.
Few Saints actually lived the principle. Those who did rarely exceeded two wives. There were no harems as shocked non-Mormons (Gentiles) imagined. Wives often lived separately, sometimes in different towns. Families set up their own routines and rules. Of course, there were problems.
Mormons believed they were protected by the freedom of religion clause in the Bill of Rights and continued to practice polygamy despite laws established to stop them. In 1882 amendments added to the Morrill Act made polygamy a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $500 fine. But the practice was almost impossible to prove, so those sentenced to prison were indicted under the easier to prove law against “unlawful cohabitation”.
Church leaders and other prominent members went into hiding. Church President John Taylor died. His successor, Wilford Woodruff, eventually knuckled under to the constant pressure to ban plural marriage. In 1890 he issued a press release, the Manifesto, which read, “I publicly declare that my advice to the Latter day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriages forbidden by the law of the land.” The vague stipulations contained therein not only failed to discourage polygamy, but seemed to encourage it. Many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s.
The first church to break off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This Sect, under the leadership of Joseph Smith III, backed by the first, legal wife of Joseph Smith Sr, Emma Smith, separated from the Mother Church in the 1850s and stayed in the Midwest. Basically, Reorganized members believed in the doctrine as Joseph Smith Sr. first established it, which did not include plural marriage.
For other groups, unhappy with the current leadership of their church, the breaking off and establishing of their own churches was inevitable.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the largest and best known of the religious groups in Utah who practice polygamy, even today. The FLDS, as they are often called, are not to be confused with the Reorganized Church which stayed in the Midwest. The FLDS came into being soon after the turn of the 20th century, but they were not alone. Many groups relocated to Utah, hoping they and their polygamist beliefs would be accepted here. For the most part, they were right.
Overall, in Utah today, polygamists number about 40,000 people, or about 1.4 percent of the population. Those living in their own communities tend to seek additional spouses from within or though networks of like communities. Often this involves daughters of polygamous families who enter into arranged marriages with older men already having a number of wives. This is commonly called daughter swapping. New brides are sometimes below the legal age limit. They may also be fairly close relatives, leading to inbreeding.
Small groups of from a few hundred to about 10,000 are reported to be located in various communities of the Western United States, Canada, and Mexico including:
Bountiful, British Columbia
Ozumba, State of Mexico
Colorado City, Arizona
Centennial Park, Arizona
Pringle, South Dakota
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Cedar City, Utah
Davis County, Utah
Rocky Ridge, Utah
Salt Lake County, Utah
Sanpete Valley, Utah
Tooele County, Utah
Utah County, Utah
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Wow! That's some incredible information. Thanks, Charlene! For anyone looking for more information about this topic, I highly recommend watching The West Series from PBS. It may be an old series, but the history hasn't changed.
So, now onto that great excerpt from The Scent of Roses. I'm sure you'll enjoy this story as much as I did.
• • •
A woman's smile . . .
Rosalyn Delaney's husband, Josiah, vanished six years ago. Following a private detective's lead, Rosalyn leaves Salt Lake City and boards a train heading to the mining town of Whiskey Ridge, Arizona. She arrives at Rose House, an old mansion reputed to be haunted, only to discover that her missing husband has been killed, and his business partner, Whip Kincaid, is wanted for his murder. Determined to uncover the secrets surrounding Josiah and his death, Rosalyn decides to stay--even though she begins to receive nightly visits from a charming "ghost" . . .
A ghost's kiss . . .
Escaping a troubled past, Whip Kincaid had hoped he could make a fresh start in Whiskey Ridge and open a saloon with his friend Josiah. Now, as a murder suspect hiding in his own house, Whip's future looks bleak indeed . . . unless he can find the real culprit. But the unexpected intrusion of Rosalyn ruins his plan to sneak out at night to investigate. Scaring her away is his first step in clearing his name, but Rosalyn doesn't rattle easily. And Whip isn't sure he wants the lovely widow to walk out of his life -- especially when she'll take his heart with her.
Rose House, Long Ago
The big house brooded on its lonely hill. Inside, the walls echoed with stillness. A breeze whispered through tiny crevices to lift dust, swirl it through abandoned rooms and down hidden passageways no guest had ever seen. Then, like a phantom, the breeze vanished in slanted rays of sunlight. The dust settled, the stillness returned, and the house heaved a sigh of boredom and regret.
Once, the walls had sung with cheerful sounds, with the chatter of women, and the laughter of children. Hopes. Dreams. Plans for the future.
Dashed forever by the crack of a bullet.
After that, years of silence . . .
Outside, valiant roses scented the air. Virginia creeper and trumpet vines choked the house’s proud facade, almost obliterating doors and dust-caked windows. Hummingbirds whirred and hovered and supped from blazing blossoms. Bees sought their own nectar, and birds tended nests, ignoring the midnight-black cat skulking below. Masses of dangling green tendrils screened the empty porch swing, as if to shelter young lovers stealing a kiss.
Years had passed since the walls last quivered with passion or sung with ecstasy. Gone were the pleasant sounds, the peaceful, happy sounds the house yearned to hear again. Sounds now relegated to the past, as well as to some future day the house knew would come.
And so the house brooded, and waited.
•April 1889, Arizona Territory
Three buildings down, she came to a restaurant. Inside, a man in a long, greasy apron cleared dirty dishes off a table. The only other occupant, a gaunt, bearded miner, slurped coffee in a corner. A bell jangled when she opened the door.
“Something to eat, miss?” asked the man in the apron.
“Actually, I came for directions.” She told him who she needed to find.
“Ol’ Josiah’s most likely at his saloon across the street at The B&K House of Billiards.”
The thin miner put down his cup. “She cain’t go there, Clell. She’s a lady.”
“Well, you don’t want me sending her to the house, do you, Henry?”
Henry frowned. “No, you sure don’t want to be going there, miss.”
She ignored the unease that shimmied over her skin. “Why not? Are you speaking of Mr. Bullock’s home?”
“Yeah,” Clell said, “and a miracle it is them folks up there haven’t had something awful happen to them yet. Rose House, they call the place, cause of the rose bushes out front. Spook House would be more apt, if you was to ask me.”
“It’s haunted,” Henry explained in an awed tone.
“That there’s Rose House.” Clell pointed out the front window. “Up there on the hill.”
She peered through the dirty glass, the rain and growing darkness. The land beyond town rose gradually to form a curving ridge jutting out from the rugged bluffs that embraced the town. The house sat on a flat spot partway up the ridge, shaded by the only trees to be seen for miles, other than the twisted junipers atop the hills. A jagged line of willows, indicative of a rare spring, curved from above, around the house, and down to the flat land where the town sat.
“You cut ‘tween Dodd’s barber shop and Hop Sing’s laundry, you’ll come to a bridge over Drunkard’s Wash,” Henry said.
“That’s the name o’ the stream. Path leads from there up to the house. But like Clell here said, you don’t want to be going there, specially not with it stormin’ and night coming on. Best go to the hotel an’ have a boy sent to fetch Bullock.”
Clell nodded. “That’d be the thing to do, all right.”
“Thank you.” She continued to squint at the house through the gray sheets of rain.
The glare from a sudden burst of lightning did give the house a sinister appearance, squatting there alone on the hillside like a great gargoyle watching over the town below. But haunted? No, there was such thing as ghosts.
• • •
Charlene began her writing life at an early age, often penning stories where she cast herself as the heroine. It was after college when she dug out her old college typewriter and started her first novel, which came from a spirited dream she'd had the previous night.
While that book never sold, her second novel did. Tender Touch became a Golden Heart finalist and earned her an agent who signed the book, and two others, in a three book contract with Kensington Publishing. Kensington went onto publish five of Charlene's western historical romances: Taming Jenna (1994); Tender Touch (1994 Golden Heart Finalist); Forever Mine (1996 Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Award Nominee and Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); To Have and To Hold (1997 Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); and as Rachel Summers, The Scent of Roses (1999).
Charlene took a break from publishing, but not from writing. A Kiss and A Dare is Charlene's first paranormal romance.
Divine Gamble is Charlene's most recently completed work and earned her first place at the 2010 Romance Through The Ages contest in their western historical romance category. Currently, she's reworking that first book she wrote that resulted from a spirited dream.
When Charlene isn't writing, she loves to travel, research genealogy, create digital scrapbooks and dye eggs in the Ukrainian style. She also enjoys camping and fishing with her husband in the Utah wilderness.
Find Charlene Online --
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Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of The Scent of Roses today to one lucky commenter. Leave Charlene a message with your email address, or ask her a question, and be automatically entered into the random drawing.
Or grab a copy of The Scent of Roses here.